The Heiress ()

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A young naive woman falls for a handsome young man who her emotionally abusive father suspects is a fortune hunter.

  • Won 4 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 8 nominations.
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Cast verified as complete

Catherine Sloper
Morris Townsend
Dr. Austin Sloper
Lavinia Penniman
Mrs. Montgomery
Jefferson Almond
Marian Almond
Elizabeth Almond
Paul Lees ...
Arthur Townsend
Harry Antrim ...
Mr. Abeel
David Thursby ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Nan Boardman ...
French Maid (uncredited)
Jack Chefe ...
French Waiter (uncredited)
Marcel De la Brosse ...
French Porter (uncredited)
Ray De Ravenne ...
French Waiter (uncredited)
Groom (uncredited)
Arthur Dulac ...
French Bellboy (uncredited)
Dr. Isaacs (uncredited)
Sam Harris ...
Party Guest (uncredited)
Donald Kerr ...
Fish Peddler (uncredited)
Dr. Sloper's Secretary (uncredited)
Sherri Morse ...
Little Girl (uncredited)
Una Mortished ...
Chambermaid (uncredited)
Harry Pipe ...
Mr. Gebhardt (uncredited)
Albert Pollet ...
French Porter (uncredited)
Loulette Sablon ...
French Maid (uncredited)
Captain of the Castle Queen (uncredited)
Minister (uncredited)
Bobby Taylor ...
Little Boy (uncredited)
Delivery Woman (uncredited)

Directed by

William Wyler

Written by

Ruth Goetz ... (written for the screen by) and
Augustus Goetz ... (written for the screen by)
Ruth Goetz ... (from the play "The Heiress"by) and
Augustus Goetz ... (from the play "The Heiress"by)
Henry James ... (suggested by the novel "Washington Square" by)

Produced by

Lester Koenig ... associate producer
Robert Wyler ... associate producer
William Wyler ... producer

Music by

Aaron Copland

Cinematography by

Leo Tover ... director of photography

Film Editing by

William Hornbeck ... (edited by)

Production Design by

Harry Horner ... (production designed by)

Art Direction by

John Meehan
Harry Horner ... (uncredited)

Set Decoration by

Emile Kuri ... (uncredited)

Costume Design by

Edith Head ... (costumes)

Makeup Department

Wally Westmore ... makeup supervisor
Hal Lierley ... makeup artist (uncredited)
Lenore Weaver ... hair stylist (uncredited)
William Woods ... makeup artist (uncredited)

Production Management

Charles Woolstenhulme ... production manager (uncredited)

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director

Charles C. Coleman ... assistant director (as C.C. Coleman Jr.)

Sound Department

Leon Becker ... sound supervisor
John Cope ... sound recordist
Hugo Grenzbach ... sound recordist

Visual Effects by

Gordon Jennings ... special photographic effects

Camera and Electrical Department

Haskell B. Boggs ... camera operator (uncredited)
Earl Crowell ... gaffer (uncredited)
Irv Newmeyer ... grip (uncredited)
Irving Newmeyer ... grip (uncredited)
G.E. Richardson ... still photographer (uncredited)

Costume and Wardrobe Department

Gile Steele ... wardrobe: men
Joan Joseff ... costume jeweller (uncredited)

Music Department

Aaron Copland ... conductor (uncredited)
Louis Kaufman ... musician: violin (uncredited)
Van Cleave ... orchestrator (uncredited)

Other crew

Josephine Earl ... dance coach (uncredited)
Harry F. Hogan ... script supervisor (uncredited)
Ronnie Lubin ... script supervisor (uncredited)
Susan Lyman ... technical advisor (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production Companies




Special Effects


Other Companies



Plot Summary

In the mid-1800's, the wealthy Sloper family - widowed surgeon Dr. Austin Sloper, his adult daughter Catherine Sloper (Dr. Sloper's only surviving child), and Dr. Sloper's recently widowed sister Lavinia Penniman - live in an opulent house at 16 Washington Square, New York City. They have accrued their wealth largely through Dr. Sloper's hard work. Despite the lessons that Dr. Sloper has paid for in all the social graces for her, Catherine is a plain, simple, awkward and extremely shy woman who spends all her free time alone doing embroidery when she is not doting on her father. Catherine's lack of social charm and beauty - unlike her deceased mother - is obvious to Dr. Sloper, who hopes that Lavinia will act as her guardian in becoming more of a social person, and ultimately as chaperon if Catherine were ever to meet the right man. The first man ever to show Catherine any attention is the handsome Morris Townsend, who she met at a family party. Catherine is initially uncertain as to Morris' intentions, never having been called on before by a gentleman, but she quickly falls in love with him, as he does with her. They plan to be married. Being a romantic, Lavinia does whatever she can to advance their relationship. However, Dr. Sloper does not trust Morris, believing him to be a fortune hunter who is only interested in Catherine for her sizable inheritance. His beliefs are strengthened after a candid discussion with Morris' sister, Mrs. Montgomery. Dr. Sloper does whatever he can to prevent the two from getting married - the entire reason for his disapproval which he does not fully disclose to either Catherine or Morris - including taking Catherine away for an extended European vacation. Ultimately, incidents with both her father and Morris permanently change Catherine's view of life. Written by Huggo

Plot Keywords
Taglines When a Woman Loves a Man . . . She Doesn't Want to Know the Truth About Him ! See more »
Parents Guide View content advisory »

Additional Details

Also Known As
  • L'héritière (France)
  • Die Erbin (Germany)
  • La heredera (Spain)
  • Arvingen (Denmark)
  • Наследница (Soviet Union, Russian title)
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  • 115 min
Aspect Ratio
Sound Mix
Filming Locations

Box Office

Budget $2,600,000 (estimated)

Did You Know?

Trivia To help Olivia de Havilland achieve the physically and emotionally weary and worn effect that he wanted, Producer and Director William Wyler packed books into the suitcases that the actress lugged up the staircase in the scene where her character realizes that she has been jilted by her lover. See more »
Goofs Technically what Catherine is doing is not embroidery, it is needle point, even in those days it was called needlepoint. See more »
Movie Connections Featured in AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to William Wyler (1976). See more »
Soundtracks Plaisir d'amour (The Joys of Love) See more »
Quotes Aunt Penniman: Can you be so cruel?
Catherine Sloper: Yes, I can be very cruel. I have been taught by masters.
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